Daily life under occupation: Palestinians in Hebron’s al-Harika neighborhood suffer incessant attacks by settlers and soldiers
The neighborhood of al-Harika is located in the southern part of Hebron’s city center (Area H2), and is home to some 3,000 Palestinians. In 1972, the settlement of Kiryat Arba was built next to the neighborhood and now has a population of about 7,000. The proximity of the settlement means that al-Harika residents suffer constant harassment by settlers, who are protected by the military. The attacks include verbal abuse, stone throwing and other forms of physical assault, and intensify on weekends and Jewish holidays.
The Palestinian neighborhood and the Israeli settlement are separated by a 1.5-kilometer-long mesh fence. Settlers routinely stand behind the fence and throw stones at four residential buildings on the other side. The buildings are home to the extended Da’na family, which has about 200 members, including some 60 children. The residents respond with throwing stones back. The clashes invariably end with the military coming to the aid of the settlers, hurling stun grenades and tear gas canisters at the Palestinian homes.
In addition to the settler attacks, al-Harika’s residents suffer military raids on the neighborhood almost every day, carried out ostensibly in search of stone throwers. The soldiers throw stun grenades and tear gas canisters in the streets, and sometimes into homes as well. They stop children on the streets and interrogate them about stone throwing. Soldiers also invade homes late at night, wake up families and question children about stone throwing.
The cases described below, and other cases documented by B'Tselem over the years, illustrate how fragile, exposed and unpredictable life has become for Palestinians living in al-Harika. Israel’s policy in this area creates exasperating, impossible living conditions for local residents, which are manifested in violence by security forces and settlers, with backing from the Israeli authorities. This leads Palestinians to abandon homes and businesses in the neighborhood.
From July to November 2019, B'Tselem field researchers in Hebron documented five settler and soldier attacks against neighborhood residents.
Soldiers threw a tear gas canister into a home, 3 November 2019:
On Sunday, 3 November 2019, at around 11:30 A.M., soldiers were captured on video detaining 'Abd a-Razeq Idris, 13, in the neighborhood of Jabal Jales. They then took him to the al-Harika neighborhood and led him through the streets, blindfolded. As they were doing this, the soldiers threw stun grenades and tear gas canisters at neighborhood homes. This particular incident was caught on video and published by B’Tselem. At the beginning of the footage, the soldiers are seen passing by one of the Da’na homes. An officer waves a tear gas canister and says to one of the residents: “This is going to be inside your house in a few minutes, okay. One minute and I’m there. Five minutes and it’s at your place. Get the kids inside, it’d be a shame...”.
In a testimony she gave B'Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash on 5 November 2019, Fidaa Da’na, 33, a married mother of six and homemaker, described the military’s violence in the neighborhood and what happened that day.
The soldiers are in our neighborhood a lot, throwing stun grenades and tear gas canisters in the streets. Sometimes, the gas seeps into our house. One of those times, my baby Hamzah, who’s three months old, choked on the gas and I was sure he was going to die. Sometimes, the soldiers also shoot live fire and “rubber” bullets on the streets and hit the solar tanks on the roofs.
A week ago, while we were harvesting olives near the house, soldiers suddenly threw tear gas in our direction. My sisters-in-law, the little kids and I ran home and waited for the gas to dissipate.
For a week now, soldiers have been coming every day to the building where we live with other relatives and going up on the roof. They stay there from 6:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M. They shoot live bullets in the air from the rooftop, and keep going up and down the stairs inside the building.
Two days ago, in the early afternoon of 3 November 2019, when the kids were coming home from school, two soldiers who were on our roof came down and tried to block their way. The kids ran off. A while later, one of the soldiers came back to the entrance of the building and asked my brother-in-law Muhammad, 35, who was standing there, something. Muhammad understood that he was asking about the kids and said they were inside. The one of the soldiers threw a tear gas canister into the building. When I smelled the gas, I took the children quickly into an inner room, closed the door, and covered their noses with perfumed paper. About two hours later, two soldiers went back up to the roof. The entrance to our building still smells of gas.
Soldiers assaulted two members of the Da’na family with stun grenades and tear gas, 4 November 2019:
In another incident, also captured on video, soldiers entered a Da’na family compound at around 5:00 P.M., claiming they were looking for stone throwers. After an argument erupted between the soldiers and the owner of one of the homes, ‘Adnan Da’na, 55, a soldier threw a stun grenade at him. After the soldiers went out of the compound, with residents shouting at them, two of the soldiers threw another stun grenade and a tear gas canister at several family members, who had to flee into one of the apartments.
In a testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash on 12 November 2019, ‘Adnan Da’na, 55, a married father of 11 and elementary school principal, described what happened:
On Monday, 4 November 2019, at around 5:00 P.M., I was at my parents’ place with some relatives. We were talking and having tea, when suddenly four soldiers showed up at the door. I left the living room, went over to them and asked: “What’s the problem”? One of them, who seemed to be the commander, asked me back, in a mocking tone, “What’s the problem”? I said: “You’re the ones with the problem, because you came all the way to our house”.
The commander said that kids from the neighborhood had thrown stones. He and the other soldiers were angry and aggressive. After a short argument they backed away about 40 meters, towards the road. I followed them to make sure they were leaving.
I saw my sister-in-law Mai documented them on camera. They stopped when they got to the main road. Mai and I were standing in the yard at the entrance to our building, a few meters away from them. All of a sudden, for no reason, the commander threw a stun grenade under my legs. It exploded and the massive sound echoed in my ears.
I was in shock. When I came to my senses, I yelled at the commander and asked him why he’d done it. Before he answered me, other soldiers threw more stun grenades and teargas canisters towards us. We ran into my parents’ house and closed the door to keep out the tear gas, which spread throughout the yard.
Soldiers raided a double wedding of the Da’na family, assaulted guests with tear gas and stun grenades and shot live bullets in the air, 24 October 2019
On Thursday evening, 24 October 2019, the Da’na family prepared to celebrate the wedding of two family members in an event that included a meal and a musical performance. Over the course of the day, several family members put up a stage near their homes. Some soldiers who came to the neighborhood told them to take the stage apart. The residents ignored them and the soldier threatened in response that they would suffer consequences.
At around 11:00 P.M., while the wedding was in full swing, soldiers raided the event, shooting in the air and throwing stun grenades and teargas canisters. Some of the guests responded by throwing chairs at the soldiers. Several soldiers went up to one of the roofs and threw stun grenades and tear gas canisters from there. At least ten members of the Da’na family suffered gas inhalation and were taken to hospital for treatment.
Samih Da’na, 51, a married father of four and merchant, described how the military ruined his son’s wedding in a testimony he gave to B'Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bri on 28 October 2019:
My son Zeid, 19, and my nephew Safwan, 20, were both getting married. The celebration started in a banquet hall far from our house, in Area H1. It was followed by a meal in the street, across from the entrance to our house in the al-Harika neighborhood.
During the preparations, soldiers already showed up and tried to stop the young men from setting up the stage for the singer. The guys ignored them, and the soldiers threatened that they’d be responsible for what happened that night and took down their information.
My brothers and I came there from the banquet hall at around 10:00 P.M., and the party started. About an hour later, soldiers started spreading through the area. We were worried that something would happen, so we asked the singer to get off the stage and the guests to go into the hall near the yard for dinner. As the guests were heading into the hall, the soldiers started pushing them, throwing stun grenades and tear gas canisters and shooting into the air. The young guys responded by throwing plastic chairs at them, and then the soldiers beat some of them with their rifle butts.
I tried to calm the guys down and also yelled at the soldiers and asked them to back off. I saw soldiers running towards the building across from our house. They went up to the roof and threw stun grenades and tear gas canisters down to the street.
The gas seeped into the houses and into the hall where we’d already laid everything out on the tables. The soldiers threw more and more stun grenades and tear gas canisters and fired live bullets in the air. In the meantime, some ambulances came. A volunteer paramedic who came with them fainted because of the gas. I helped them give first aid to children and women who’d inhaled the gas, and we carried them to the ambulances.
After about an hour, I’d inhaled too much gas already. I fell down and had difficulty breathing. I was taken in an ambulance to Muhammad ‘Ali al-Muhtaseb Hospital in southern Hebron. They gave me first aid and transferred me to the ‘Aalia Government Hospital. The doctors wanted me to stay there for observation, but it was my son’s wedding night and I insisted on going home. The father of the groom has to be there. At around 6:00 A.M., I was discharged at my own risk.
When I got home, I found out that more than ten members of our family had been taken to hospital, including my mother, who is 70, and my nephew, who is two months old. They all suffered gas inhalation. I’m still coughing and have chest pain. Some of the cars that were parked in the area were damaged by the tear gas canisters the soldiers threw that night. We suffer daily here from attacks by soldiers and settlers, but this was the hardest night we’ve ever gone through – especially because of the festive mood and the joy we all felt until the soldiers ruined everything. It could have ended in disaster.
Settlers attacked Da’na family homes with stones, 16 September 2019
On Monday, 16 September 2019, at around 8:30 P.M., four settlers were filmed throwing stones at one of the Da’na homes, about 250 meters from the fence that separates the neighborhood from the settlement. About two hours later, two buses arrived and unloaded dozens of settlers. Some joined in the stone throwing and swore at neighborhood residents. Soldiers and Border Police officers who arrived at the scene joined the attack, throwing tear gas canisters into the neighborhood.
In a testimony she gave B'Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bri on 19 September 2019, Mai Da'na, 28, a married mother of three and homemaker, related what happened:
On Saturday, 14 September 2019, at around 8:30 P.M., four settlers who were standing on a hill in the settlement of Kiryat Arba started throwing stones at one of my family’s homes. I grabbed my camera, went up to the roof of the building across from mine and started filming what was going on. In the meantime, two buses came and dozens of settlers got off. Some of them started throwing stones and swearing. The stones hit the windows of our homes. They hit them so hard that it felt like we were being fired at.
My father-in-law started yelling at the settlers, trying to get them to back off and stop throwing stones. My husband, Samih, made some calls to get help, including the Red Cross and the Palestinian DCO. A lot of soldiers and Border Police officers arrived, but the settlers kept on throwing stones right in front of them and the soldiers did nothing to stop them. Instead, the soldiers started throwing tear gas canisters at neighborhood homes. The gas spread and I couldn’t keep filming from the roof, so I went down to one of the apartments, where I could see what was going on outside. My kids, Jasser, 4, and Shawak, 2, were with me. The settlers’ shouting and the thuds the stones made on the windows scared them. I tried to reassure them and keep filming at the same time.
The settlers kept throwing stones for about an hour. Right after that, the military raided houses in the neighborhood until after 11:00 P.M. Settler attacks on the neighborhood happen all the time, and the military always backs them up and attacks us with tear gas. It’s become almost a daily routine. People here often get hurt from gas inhalation and have to be taken to hospital.
Because of the settler attacks, my husband and his brothers installed screens on all the windows, which is why, fortunately, no windows were broken in the attack.
Settlers assaulted a Da’na family home with stones, 6 July 2019
On Saturday, 6 July 2019, beginning at around 7:00 P.M., B'Tselem volunteer Mai Da’na, filmed about five settlers throwing stones at one of the Da’nas’ homes and an adjacent sheep pen. A soldier who was there did nothing. Neighborhood children began throwing stones at the settlers in retaliation. At that point, the military stepped in, and about 20 soldiers started chasing the children while throwing tear gas canisters and stun grenades in the streets. The soldiers only left the neighborhood at around 11:00 P.M.
Dalal Da’na, 35, a married mother of six and homemaker who was eight months pregnant at the time, described what happened in a testimony she gave B'Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bri on 9 July 2019:
On 6 July 2019, at around 7:00 P.M., I was in our yard with my children Batul, 12, Tamer, 8, and Muhammad, 2. The Kiryat Arba fence was built right next to our house. Suddenly, a stone landed right among us. A few young settlers started yelling at us. They threw more and more stones. The children were scared and started screaming and crying. I took them inside right away and tried to calm them down.
Then I went quickly to our sheep pen. The settlers were throwing stones at it, too. My son ‘Udai, 17, was there feeding the livestock. Our relative, ‘Adnan, 55, ran over there and got ‘Udai out, and in the meantime, the settlers kept throwing stones at the pen and on my windows.
It went on for about half an hour. A soldier who was standing there did nothing. When some kids from the neighborhood started throwing stones back at the settlers, the settlers ran to a hilltop inside the settlement and kept throwing stones from there.
The stones hit our windows, and it really scared my kids. Luckily, after settlers broke our windows in the past, my husband Nayef installed screens on them. Yet the settlers did manage to break the bathroom window and stones got inside.
After that, a lot of soldiers, about 20, came and started chasing the kids from the neighborhood who’d been throwing stones. They also started hurling tear gas canisters and stun grenades. I’m pregnant, and a lot of gas spread through the area. I was afraid for my baby. I tried to reassure the kids, who were frightened by the thuds the stones made on the windows and the settlers’ shouting.